Self-Care

Be Good to Your Horse

People who experience the effects of chronic pain, disease, injury, weight issues, aging, or other physical conditions sometimes feel as if their bodies have betrayed them. They begin to resent their bodies, and resentment can lead to mistreatment or neglect. When a client is feeling this way, I sometimes talk about being good to your horse.

Imagine the life of a cowboy and his horse. If the horse gets sick or injured, is that a betrayal? Certainly not. The horse and cowboy rely on each other mutually, and both have limits. The cowboy depends upon his horse for work, transportation, safety, and even companionship; while the horse depends upon the cowboy for food, water, rest, companionship, and a good brushing. If the cowboy fails to care for his horse, the horse will become ill and less capable of providing for the cowboy. Even if the cowboy takes good care of his horse, sickness and injury are still inevitable over time.

How should the cowboy respond at these times? How would you respond? With resentment, mistreatment, or neglect? Or with caring and compassion? I believe that most people would advocate for caring and compassion. Even from a purely practical point of view, the compassionate approach seems likely to help the horse heal more quickly. No matter how inconvenient the sickness or injury may be, it is important for the cowboy to acknowledge the needs of the horse. If he does not, his own needs may also go unmet. For the cowboy, caring for the horse is caring for himself.

The same is true for our relationships with our bodies, and we should treat our bodies as good as we would treat our horse. Not all ailments can be reversed, even with the best of care, but mistreatment and neglect will almost always accelerate the decline.

So, have a little compassion for your body. Take care of it. Treat it well. Be good to your horse.